Big 'n' Lil Goblins in the Valley
As of late I’ve been watching a lot of Westworld. The landscapes in it seem exceedingly created by set builders, but lo and behold almost all of it was filmed in Utah! Side note: If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend watching if you’re into the possibility of AI taking over the world weaved with being confused half the time all while questioning your own existence and morals. It’s fun, it’s dark and the cast is all-time (Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton are powerhouses). Anyways, since I’ve got a little Eskie named Louis this narrowed the possibilities for parks that people accompanied by their dogs can go visit. After all the Googling, Pinteresting, and Instagram digging I gathered all the information that I’m sharing to give you the best desert camping and hiking experience I can in and around Goblin Valley State Park.
You did the research, this is going to be awesome. You think this thought in your head and the anticipation of the weekend’s trip builds as the work week progresses. That’s how I felt going into visiting Goblin Valley about 3.5 hours south east of Salt Lake City. One thing that I would recommend before getting into our adventure is if you are coming from Salt Lake City stop in Price for gas. Stop. In. Price. For. Gas. Otherwise you risk running out on your way back home and might have to take a detour in Green River (we ended up taking the gamble and had to drive from GV all the way to Price with our windows down, no A/C in 90+ degree heat, a very miserable way to end the trip). Anyways, from many other outdoor enthusiast friends I knew that Goblin Valley was one to get in the books. They would describe it as landscape out of Mars (or better yet a scene out of GalaxyQuest).
When we pulled up the scenery was beautiful and those photos you see of the yurts online are right off the road. Which was surprising since they photograph like they're in the middle of nowhere. The state park entrance fee is $10 per vehicle and more if you're taking an RV or bus. We were given our little paper to attach on our windshield and off we went. The park is much smaller than I thought it was going to be. It's all action-packed condensed in one area. At other parks I'm used to driving from one area to another, but everything you would be looking for is just right there. You pass the three sister goblins and can just hop out of the car to take a picture.
From there you keep driving and it ends in a large parking area with potable water and flushing toilets with a large gazebo to boot. We ended up parking near the gazebo and from there geared up to hike around. You'll definitely want to bring water with you while hiking - I'd say at least a gallon per person. Get yourself one of those huge 64oz growlers for maximum hydration because you and your pup are going to drink every drop. From the cars, facing the gazebo, we turned right over to the stairs leading down to the valley. It is a literal free for all out there and even though plenty of people were milling around we quickly found ourselves alone among the towering, funny shaped goblins.
In the pre-summer heat we weaved in and out of the valleys, caves, nooks, and crannies. One path led to another and sometimes we'd get cliffed out and have to backtrack. The views were incredible and we soon tried to climb to the tallest peak we could see. At some point during the scramble up there wasn't any possible way to go upwards so we looked down to the valley below for more. The hike down was a little difficult, there wasn't exactly a clear way to the bottom with lots of drops and butt scoots. If you decide to hike with your four-legged friend be sure they can handle jumping up and down or else you'll have to hoist them over a rock gap or two.
After a break for lunch we decided to go find the Basilisk Cave or more known as the Goblin's Lair. There was plenty of day left and we had covered so much more ground than I thought we were going to, so off we went. If you're referencing where we started in the beginning we were now walking to the far left of the gazebo parking lot. There you can see that the tall mountains of the goblins dropped down to a valley below. We knew the cave was somewhere over there but unsure about the path. There was a slightly beaten trail that hugged the bottom of the mountains - DO NOT FOLLOW - that way is not kid, dog, or tired person friendly. We made that mistake and almost turned around since we were all pretty shot at that point. Luckily there were some hikers coming back from the cave and pointed us in the right direction. The path is sometimes marked with cairns or blown over signs, but they are far enough apart to get slightly lost.
Alas we found our destination. More climbing ensued. If you're really adventurous you can go get a permit and rappel down the cave from above. We were pretty maxed out, but maybe for another day. The hike out and back ended up being about 3 miles round trip give or take since we were pros at getting off track. With the day coming to a close we were ready to go find a camp site outside of the park. All in all Goblin Valley State Park did not disappoint. There was so much to do and see in such a condensed area I highly recommend it for the weekend adventure seekers!